RF management products are coming into their own, with a rush of products, but their use is varied. Some companies are using them to manage a production wireless LAN, others more concerned about the risks of wireless use these products simply to detect and remove any unauthorised wireless LANs.

Meanwhile, some companies want RF management to come as part of their existing WLAN infrastructure, while others are prepared to pay for a separate network of dedicated sensors. Multi-channel Wi-Fi chips are required for devices that can really effectively monitor and carry data, says chip-designer Engim, but multi-channel products are not yet available. for now users have to choose between the cost of an overlay network and the overhead of a dual-purpose network.

Mortgage company locks out rogues
First Horizon Home Loan (FHHL), a mortgage company in Irving, Texas, has gone for dedicated sensors, and has used them for both prevention and protection.. It bought Network Chemistry's initial product to enforce a "no WLAN allowed" policy at some locations, while the company worked out a WLAN strategy. Later this year, FHHL plans to deploy WLANs at headquarters and some 900 branch offices, and NC's new RFprotect product will be rolled out with it: Each access point will have an RFprotect sensor nearby.

"We want to make sure that what's occurring on our wireless nets is what we want to occur," says Michael Wallis, FHHL manager of data security. "We want to detect what's going on and this is one more tool for doing that."

Adding an overlay makes a wireless network more expensive, but Wallis says that the cost of installing a separate sensor network is comparable to the premium he would pay Cisco or Extreme to add WLAN and RF management capabilities into a wired switch infrastructure. "It's about a break-even," he says. "We're already pulling cable for the wireless access points, so we can just run an additional string and put a sensor wherever we put an access point."

Legal firm goes the dual-purpose route
Other users reckon that a wireless system from a specialist switch vendor gives them enough visibility for prevention and protection in one.

"You can see the connected (WLAN) client, the (media access control) and IP addresses assigned, the user log-in," says John Greiner, CTO for Legal Services for New York, a group that offers legal assistance in civil cases to residents of the five New York City boroughs. "You can see all the access points and how they're operating, and the power levels for the radios," Grenier adds.

Legal Services installed an Aruba WLAN switch and access points initially as a way to monitor internal and external wireless traffic, and to create an open wireless link to the Internet for staff and volunteers. Greiner says he will expand wireless use over time, and increase the use of Aruba's monitoring features.

Whichever way users choose to adopt RF monitoring, it has very clearly become a component that must be considered - and budgeted for - in any enterprise WLAN.